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Bus riders account for more than 20 percent of people using Lake Shore Drive every day while taking up a fraction of the space that cars do.

Pace launches its much-anticipated Pulse service

A new express bus line has rolled into Niles. Pace, the suburban bus service, recently debuted its Pulse transit service on Milwaukee Avenue, promising frequent, faster, and more reliable transit for one of the most heavily traveled corridors between the northwest suburb and Chicago.

Pace launched the Pulse Milwaukee Line on Aug. 11 as the first route in its new Pulse transit system. The Milwaukee Line runs along a 7.6-mile route on Milwaukee Avenue between the Golf Mill Shopping Center in Niles and the Jefferson Park Transit Center in Chicago.

It operates every 10 minutes during peak weekday periods, every 15 minutes during off-peak periods and weekends, and every 30 minutes in the late evenings.

To further speed up travel times, the Pulse Milwaukee line has limited-stop service with only 10 stops that are no closer than a half mile apart. In addition, should the bus fall behind schedule, traffic signal priority technology will allow the bus to prolong green lights and shorten red lights.

The frequency, fast service, and affordability of Pulse is designed to meet the needs of all transit users by improving their access to jobs, education, medical care, recreation, and entertainment — ultimately helping to create healthy, equitable, and thriving communities, according to Maggie Daly Skogsbakken, chief communications officer at Pace.

“We’ve seen dramatic losses nationwide in public transportation use. Markets change. Work days change. So service needs to change. This type of service gives people more flexibility to choose us. We want people to choose us over the car not because they have to, but because they want to,” she says. “People will choose transit over a car when it makes sense, when it’s convenient, when they can be productive on their trips. So we’re focusing more on providing a better service, not just a service that meets the needs of those who absolutely need it — although we are super cognizant of those needs as well. Pulse will be a service that everyone could consider.”

Riders will not only appreciate the frequency and reliability of Pulse, but also the amenities of the system that are intended to create a safe, high-quality, and comfortable trip. Every Pulse bus station features a raised platform to facilitate faster boarding and a prominent vertical marker that displays real-time bus tracker times and area maps.

The stations also include heated shelters with seats that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and snow-melt pavements. The buses offer free Wi-Fi, are equipped with USB chargers under the seats, and have monitors that display real-time arrival information and stops on the line.

The Pulse Milwaukee Line’s southern terminus is the Jefferson Park Transit Center in Chicago, where passengers can connect to CTA Blue Line trains, Metra’s Union Pacific-Northwest Line trains, and numerous Pace and CTA bus routes.

Pace has no plans to phase out the local Route 270 bus, which serves the same corridor as the Pulse Milwaukee line, because Route 270 makes more local stops along Milwaukee Avenue and travels further north.

Because the Pulse Milwaukee Line does not have a dedicated bus lane, it falls short of a full-fledged bus rapid transit system. Active Trans is happy to know that the transit agency plans to add dedicated bus lanes where it can to future lines of the Pulse network. In addition, Pace is working to incorporate prepaid boarding to the Pulse Milwaukee line as well as upcoming Pulse lines.

In the meantime, Pace is forging ahead with the next line of the Pulse network. Next up is the Pulse Dempster Line, which will provide service from Evanston to O’Hare International Airport. When complete, the Pulse network will consist of 24 routes total.


Top photo shows Active Trans Interim Executive Director Melody Geraci speaking at the recent Milwaukee Pulse ribbon cutting ceremony. Other photo, courtesy of Pace, shows the Touhy station on the Pulse Milwaukee Line.